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ISLAMABAD: A Christmas Carol singing event was held at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) on Saturday by the Islamabad Christian Fellowship (ICF) and attended by a cross-section of local residents including teachers, civil society, ambassadors and children.

The PNCA stage was adorned with red and white flavours for the occasion, and young members of the ICF family were the masters of ceremony.

In a welcome address on behalf of the ICF, Ashraf Mall said the event is organised every year to “promote religious harmony and to commemorate the birth and life of Jesus Christ, and share his message of peace and forgiveness”.

He said: “We are volunteers from different walks of life and today we remember the late Saleem Sadiq, a member of the ICF and a CSP officer from Quetta. At the time of his passing a year ago he was a joint secretary in the Ministry of Food Security.”

Kaman Gill shared contributions made by Christians in Pakistan. Referencing evidence from writings from in Syria in the 1800s, Mr Gill explained that the presence and role of Christians in the region predated the creation of Pakistan.

He said that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was clear on the protection of minorities, that the new country would be suffused with the spirit of moderation and there would be no discrimination amongst the citizens of Pakistan. He said that the pre-partition Christians believed in the Quaid’s message and supported the cause of Pakistan fervently.

He explained that today, the population of Christians has fallen from 15pc to 1.6pc and they are among the poorest of the population. From missionary schools and colleges to artists, health and other service providers and military heroes, Christians have contributed significantly to their communities, localities and the country at large.

The lovely entertainment prepared by the ICF included brief short by children on key messages from the birth of Christ, connecting them to similar behaviour and attitudes today.

These were interspersed with popular Christmas carols by the choir of St Thomas Church which included Every Star Shall Sing a Carol, The First Noel the Angel Did Say, Joy to the World, the Lord is Come, Angels We Have Heard on High, O Come All Ye Faithful, What Child is This, A Ray of Hope Flickers in the Sky and more. Bishop of Lahore Rt Reverend Irfan Jamil also spoke at the event.

“In this season we all have different thoughts about Christmas,” he said, and touched on the various aspects of Christmas that we associate with the season and their relevance and significance to the essence of Christmas, such as Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, carol singing, Christmas foods such as sweets, panettone, turkey and sugar and spice, the Christmas wreath, the stockings, the three Wise Men amongst others.

Barrister Naeem Bukhari said: “I have learnt many things during the performance by our children and particularly the Reverend Bishop. I was born in a house of Muslims and consequently I am a Muslim by birth; but I have been educated by Christians.”

Speaking of the habits they helped inculcate in him, he added that he had always had a great admiration for Christians, saying: “I do not think they are any different from me; they are us and we are them. And as one of the great Indian philosophers has written there are many routes to God and no one has a monopoly on them. We are all reaching for the same purpose in our own ways.” The evening ended with the cutting of the Christmas cake.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2018